18 Dec 2019

The Ultimate Guide to Proper Youtube Video Tagging [Updated]

Youtube is one the biggest marketing channels out there, yet it is mostly under-utilized by brands. According to Statista, YouTube reached 1.9 billion users worldwide in 2019.

Image source: Statistics Library

In case you are preparing yourself for amplifying your video content through Youtube (which you probably should), here’s an extensive guide for you on Youtube tagging.

According to YouTube, tagging is one of the most important ways to rank your video in YouTube search results:

Tags help users find your video when they search the site. When users type keywords related to your tags your video will appear in their search results.

YouTube does consider user engagement as well (like number of views, views in common and user “retention”) but tagging is the *first* step to ranking your video in YouTube search results (and thus getting a good chance to get ranked in Universal Results as well).

A most scientific (but still useful to start brainstorming) approach to classifying YouTube tags (pdf) groups all the tags as follows:

  1. Generic relationship between tag and video content:
    1. Tag identifies what the video is of at its most primary and objective level – no subject specific knowledge is needed to make this distinction (e.g. a video of a cat, tagged as ‘cat’ or ‘animal’)
    2. General YouTube defined Category or Genre (e.g. Comedy, Entertainment, Music)
  2. Specific relationship between tag and video content:
    1. Tag identifies what video is of. Familiarity or some existing knowledge is needed to make this connection (this may be about names, locations, venues, etc).
  3. Tag only useful to a minority of users, specific individual or group
    1. Refining tag (Tag which cannot stand alone – only useful when looked at as part of the larger tag set (e.g., episodes of a series of videos specified by a number)
    2. Self-reference tagging (e.g. “my dog”),
  4. Irrelevant/Non Useful Tags (those may vary from attention-grabbing and misspelled tags to conjunctions and prepositions).

Obviously, the top three classes of tags should all be considered for ranking for various types of search queries  (navigational search queries, generic search, category search, etc).

Brainstorming Youtube Tags

Most YouTube pros suggest including as many relevant tags as you can (of course, that doesn’t mean you need hundreds of them but dropping the dozen of most essential ones is very important for your rankings). YouTube doesn’t restrict the number of tags as well which is good sign.

I do agree that we need to use quite a few tags, but the focus is on “smart” or “educated” tagging:

1) Include Your Brand-Specific Tags

This one comes first because it’s so often neglected!

  • You *want* to rank for your own brand name in YouTube search results;
  • You do want your own videos to appear in Google’s universal results!

So what you never want to forget is to “self-reference” your video:

  • With your own name (the one the world knows you by);
  • Your brand name: preferably in a couple of variations, like: [brand name], [brandname] and [brandname.com]

2) Use YouTube Auto-Suggest

What you do next is playing with YouTube search results a bit. Two things we want to do here:

  • See what YouTube suggests typing in when searching (you want to rank for all of those words);
  • Identifying a few videos that tend to pop up now and then for important search queries (especially in default “by Relevance” tab)

So what you are going to do next is trying a few random keyword-based searches in a row taking a note of the two things I’ve mentioned above:

youtube suggest

Gotta love Auto-Suggest: each new letter you add brings up more and more suggestions:

youtube suggest

3) Use YouTube Tag Generator

Rapidtags.io can be used to generate Youtube tags and get more ideas:

generator tags

Adding the Tags

Now that you have thoroughly collected all the relevant tags, throw them into an Excel spreadsheet and use all sorts of sorting and conditional formatting to identify your best “core” words you want to include into your tags.

For example, you can use “Find and Replace” feature to highlight all the cells that have “free” in yellow (read more about organizing your keyword modifiers <- “oldie but goodie”):

Again, while you are free to play with the above tools to generate lots of keyword ideas, the main point of this step is to identify your most important core terms to build upon. After all, you don’t want hundreds of tags added. Instead, you want to add the best ones.

For this:

  • Omit “stop” words (especially articles “a” / “the”);
  • Go with plural variant of the similar phrases (this is usually your best bet);
  • Mind what YouTube suggests you using (it probably knows its stuff).

Further Steps

Youtube has both tags and hashtags, so to avoid the confusion, please use the checklist:

youtube checklist

Finally, Youtube advises against excessive tags and hashtags, so stay away from tag-spamming:

Adding excessive tags to your video description is against our policies on spam, deceptive practices, and scams. Get tips on writing effective tags and descriptions.

Any more tips on YouTube video rankings? Please share them in the comments!

Oh and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel to get notified of new SEO videos we upload!


  1. Karen Fox May 26, 2012 at 4:54 PM

    Great article on tagging… Very well executed! Thanks!

  2. May 28, 2012 at 12:03 AM

    Hi Ann,

    What fabulous tagging tips you’ve included here! I particularly like how you’ve shown how to utilise the tags of competitiors to help our own videos rank. Priceless!

    Thanks so much for sharing.


  3. [email protected] June 21, 2012 at 11:26 AM

    Thank you for the valuable information; a few days ago I’ve posted a video on you tube showing “how to make Haitian lemon juice with milk” followed by another video “the ultimate way to make Haitian lemon juice with milk” I wrote the same keywords in the tag. Is that the proper way?

  4. gaby lynch October 2, 2012 at 9:57 PM

    How to we add the tags though? To be seperate the words by a comma or “phrase”

  5. Norman Risner September 18, 2013 at 11:15 PM

    How do I add the tags? separated with comma or space?

    1. Will December 15, 2019 at 4:43 PM

      Tags on Youtube should be separated by a comma (and the space that follows it, of course), like this : food, recipe,

  6. Hamayon March 3, 2015 at 9:01 AM

    Having a look on the tags used by the competitors is must as by doing this we come to know what our competitors are doing with their videos. Specially we should check the tags by the top 10 videos so we can have an idea what tags are those successful videos are using and how should we put our tags.

  7. Jean-Christophe Chouinard December 13, 2019 at 8:13 AM

    I’ve been wondering about this subject a while but never took time to test anything. Thanks for the tips. Anybody have made tests showing a good range in number of tags?

  8. Netmaxims Technologies December 17, 2019 at 1:14 AM

    Hi Ann,
    Wow! Fabulous tagging tips you’ve included here! I like how you utilise the tags of competitiors to help our own videos rank.

    Thanks so much for sharing.


  9. adrina January 21, 2020 at 5:58 AM

    This is nice post for ultimate guide to proper youtube video and thanks a lot fro sharing with us.

  10. Adrina January 24, 2020 at 5:16 AM

    This is nice post for ultimate guide to proper youtube and having right article to see you here.

  11. Top Best Blogger March 9, 2020 at 10:18 PM

    Hi Ann,
    Wow! Fabulous tagging tips you’ve included here! I like how you utilise the tags of competitiors to help our own videos rank.

    Thanks so much for sharing.


  12. Jon Weberg March 20, 2020 at 1:50 AM

    With the right tagging, a LOT of businesses can very quickly increase there Youtube audience and presence. A great post for sure my friend!! Entrepreneurs and businesses need to start FULLY utilizing the gold mines of leads, profits, and sales in front of them. Social media and blogging for the win!

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